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Too Much of a Good Thing

Overview: This strategy involves using a computer simulation to increase participants’’ understanding of the long-term potential of compounding growth, limits to growth, and the potential for growth of one part of a system to be detrimental to other parts of the system.  The follow-up application of the learning in discussion and decision making should reflect thoughtful consideration of the power of compounding growth and the conditions that will produce that dynamic.

Strategy Objectives

Organizational Context

Concepts

  • To increase participants’ understanding of the long-term potential of compounding growth

  • To increase participants’ understanding of limits to growth

  • To increase participants’ understanding of trade-offs in a system, long-term, unintended consequences

  • To increase participants’ awareness of compounding growth dynamics within their classroom/department/school/

    district, etc.

The use of a computer simulation creates a learning context for participants, which takes them away from the emotional and/or political pressures of a decision-making scenario.  The simulation deepens understanding about a dynamic that we recognize but may not totally understand.  In the spirit of organizational learning, using a computer simulation to stimulate new perspectives and insights prior to discussing an issue or situation creates common language and builds both personal mastery and team learning.

  • reinforcing feedback

  • exponential growth

  • limits to growth

  • unintended consequences

Materials

Length

Systems Tools

  • The Riddle of the Lilly Pad computer simulation

  • One computer and projector for larger group presentation or multiple computers for small group work.

30-45 minutes for actual simulation and brief discussion. Additional time needed to identify and discuss connections to organizational dynamics.

  • Behavior-over-time-graph

  • Computer Model

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